North Hills News Record from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 12, 1975 · Page 7
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North Hills News Record from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 7

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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Saturday, April 12, 1975
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Page 7
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SATURDAY-SUNDAY, APRIL 12-13, 1975--NEWS RECORD--7 Century old this week Happy Birthday 'West Bellevue!' By BERNIE KERSTING Once upon a time, about 1788, John Taylor came to America to find the promised land. He came in Irish rags hoping to find American riches -- a place to till the earth, to grow crops and to raise a family. Today, this land on which Taylor settled is known as Avalon. And this week marks the week that West Bellevue Council met as a government body for the first time 100 years ago. Richard Martin, member of the ~~--" Borough's Centennial Committee, which has set up a new office at 608 California Ave., said. "On Dec. 9, 1874, a group of 29 property owners met and decided they wanted to separate from Kilbuck Township which itself split from Pine Township in 1869. "They petitioned the Court of Quarter Sessions of Pennsylvania for incorporation papers. The petition was drawn up by Noah S h a f e r , who eventually became West Bellevue's first solicitor. The group was notified that it first had to hold an election so officials of the petitioning body could make the request for incorporation. I "The first election was held Dec. 26, 1874. James Semple was elected the first burgess, a position he held three different times." Martin explained that when the petition was submitted the second time, the court was in recess. The court met again in April and April 7, 1875, approved the petition and West Bellevue's right to incorporation. * The original property owners who requested incorporation, lists like a Who's Who book of the North Boroughs. The petitioners were Shafer. Capt. John Birmingham. William Jackman, B. W. Preston, John Aiken, Lee $. Smith, L. J. Welsh. David H. Jones. L. A. Geitz. William H. and John Hamilton, Robert Hunter, and Richard and Jimmy Shorte. Others were George Washington Taylor, John Set "idt, Martin Harper (who marked his .iame with an X), Thomas Welsh. G. W. Dunseath, Alexander and Samuel Hamilton, -Andrew- Bahl --SF. and Jr.,-George Hawkins, ' Martha Taylor, John and James Semple, James Irwins, Thomas Dawspn and John L. Williams. West Bellevue Council held its first * offical meeting April 10. 1875. in the school house. The one-room building was located where the Borough Hall is now. Elected to the first council were r i v e r b o a t p i l o t C a p t . J o h n Birmingham, president: Lee S. Smith, vice president; James Sernple, burgess and treasurer; John Aiken, William Jackman, John Semple, Andrew Bahl Jr., Noah Shafer, solicitor, George Hawkins, and Hugh Walkinshaw, tax collector. Martin said the borough's first budget was $900 with a tax of 2 mills. The biggest chunk of the budget went to lease four horses and driver at $3.10 a day. Labor cost $1.25 a day. The road bill the first year totaled $75. The first street commissioner was George Hawkins, and Martin Harper was an early street crewman. The Newcomer America promised fortune and opportunity to new settlers in the Revolutionary War period. For John Taylor, an immigrant from Cavan, Northern Ireland, it was no different. Mrs. Lorraine Taylor Fichtel of Oakland, great-great-granddaughter of John Taylor, published a book on her conception of his footsteps. She researched the book for three years. According to the book, John and two friends, James Courtney and John Wesley Dickson, left Ireland in 1788 for the new world. Finding the eastern coastal cities too congested for their liking, they moved inland. There is no way of knowing whether they had horses, walked or were members of a wagon train. Mrs. Fichtel says that the three moved west until they came to the headwaters of the Monongahela River. Here they dug out canoes and took the river north. She says that Courtney and Dickson dropped out as they found suitable land on which to settle. Taylor continued his trip until one night, while he rested in his canoe, it grounded. He stayed the night and when woke, discovered he liked what he saw. Mrs. Fichtel says the island on which he landed is believed to be Davis Island, called Lost Island by -the Indians. Taylor's first day on the small stretch of land was eventful. He discovered the land was already occupied -- by. Indians. With his Irish luck working he found the Indians, believed to be Delawares, friendly. He bartered with their leader, thought to be Chief Kilbuck, who eventually was satisfied with Taylor's offer and moved his people. The Indian deed is thought to have read: "Lantf from- the Big Water (Ohio River) to the top of the hill and a strip of land on-the top of the hill, west, as far as a man could ride from sun up to sun down." Land Problems Mrs. Fichtel says when the Delawares left, Taylor started to build a log cabin, but was soon confronted by another group of Indians. They, too, demanded money and when Taylor refused, a fight broke out that lasted a week. Taylor, of course, won. Taylor's land problems didn't end with the Indians. Following the Revolutionary War, land was set aside for soldiers, who came home bankrupt. The land was called Depreciation Lands and could be bought by the soldiers with depreciation certificates in which they were paid after the war. The first recorded sale of land in the area was about 1785 near Sewickley for 28 cents an acre. Martin said that the first recorded landowner in the Borough area was Barnabas Binney. "As did many of the soldiers* land speculators bought their property before they had a Chance to see it. Many never knew where the land was. One of the large plot owners at this VILLAGE BLACKSMITH. Many old-time residents of the North Boroughs will remember having their horses shoo or a buggy wheel re- * ,* George Taylor's blacksmith shop on Birmingham Avenue in the 1870s. time v fhomas Ashley. Though the land w ..: his name, records show he worked for the Philadelphia Land Co. at the time-." The Fichtel book says that John married Mary'Agnes Carnahan, a Green . Tree resident, -in-1800. They had severe children: John Jr., James, David, Sarah Ann, Jane. Alexander and Wilson. Shortly after their marriage, land agents told Taylor his deed with the Indians was invalid. He was told to pay for the land or leave. On March 16,1802, Taylor apparently paid John and Jane Moore, reputed owners of the land through depreciation, for 235 acres. The agreement was registered Sept. 25, 1802. in Pine Township. Mrs. Fichtel said the Taylors lived happily until 1832, whence family was forced to leave the island because of a flood. They all survived, but the only things saved from their farm were a horse and the mouse that clung to its back. Judge Owns Home The Taylors decided to move to higher ground and build a new home on a hill. The home burned to the ground J?!J^UJ?7j--U?Q?^--T-he chimneys were the- only things left. Walter P. Fraser bought about 90 acres around the chimneys from Samuel Taylor, John's grandson, about 1906. In 1910 a nine-hole golf course was constructed and named the Ben Avon Country Club. The chimneys formed the The first brick Avalon School that opened in 1893. Depreciation Land plots designating owners, acres and locations to present borders fireplaces in the clubhouse. The clubhouse is now the home of Judge Maurice B. Cohill Jr. *n Oxford Road, Ben Avon Heights. John Taylor died Sept. 21. 1844. He is buried in the Hiland Presbyterian Church cemetery on Perry Highway. Ross. John and Mary were two of the church's earliest members. Avalon Selected The new borough ran smoothly from 1875 to early-1887, when a group of citizens petitioned council for a new name. At the time the railroad depot was called Birmingham Station, the Post Office was called Mylor and the borough was West Bellevue. To 37 residents this was confusing so they asked council to change the names of the railroad and post offices. Martin said: "James Semple, the burgess, ordered the high constable to place posters on telegraph poles announcing a meeting to change the names. The meeting was -held- Oct--18, 1887, but another group came to the meeting with another petition. They wanted the names kept the same. "Semple decided the best solution was to change all three names and on Nov. 21, 1887, a vote was taken on seven possible names." The top vote getter was Avalon with 27; West Bellevue received 10: Mylor, 8: Anglo, 3; Oakcliff. 2 1 : Highwood. 1. and Inverness, none, the nominator didn't even vote for that one. A second vote was taken between Avalon and West Bellevue. Avalon won 36-20 Martin said there are three theories about how "Avalon" was originally placed on the list. One is that a woman at the meeting chose the name. It reminded her of an English Island with rolling hills she had visited. The second, and most widely accepted, is that Jacob Calmer who was presiding" over the November meeting, had a Postal Guide before him and the group went through the names until they reached Avalon. They liked the name, so they stopped looking further. The final theory is .based onjhe^. apple orchards in the area, a result of Johnny Appleseed Chapman's journey through the area. In -Arthurian England, Avalon was "the abode of the blessed." However, in Welsh the name means "place of big apples." On March 6. 1893. Avalon Council met for the first time under it's new name Several years later the borough was divided into three wards. The streets of these wards are named for many of the original landowners in the borough. The first four, running north and south from Ben Avon, are named after presidential candidates. The land in that area belonged to Capt. Birmingham and was being divided into lots during the e l e c t i o n . The candidates were Harrison. Fisk. Cleveland and Miss Belva Lockwood. As late as 1900. Avalon remained a farming community, with only two homes on California Avenue. Today, the borough has over 7.000 residents and few are farmers. Though this week is the original birthday for the borough, the real celebrating will not take place until June 27 to July 4. Among the festivities planned are parades, sTfeeF "dances, fireworks^ carnivals, and, who knows, maybe even an apple bobbing contest for the Welsh.

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